With Expo East looming, it got me thinking about what I think makes for a winner brand in the healthy CPG (Consumer Packaged Good) space. Everyone thinks they have the best (or at least a really great) product, or they wouldn’t be grinding it out in this vertical. It is so demanding and defeating, so you need to have the underlying belief that you have the goods and ride that horse until the end of the race. The big differentiators I have found between the winning and losing brands are:
1- Good taste and health profile. I have some clients with products that taste good but have too much sugar or just aren’t really all that healthy or good for you. Then I have others with great labels and concepts, but a product that consumers won’t like or buy (more than once). You sort of need to nail both.
2- Good operators. I am such a believer that you need smart, compassionate and driven leaders (and the team to follow) to win in this game. There are so many layers and paths to navigate and it cannot be a B- player making the calls, especially at the top.
3- Funding. Bottom line is you need the funds to even sit at the table and be able to deal yourself into the game to have a chance to really make it. You cannot get by with minimal cash because you cannot invest in the mission-critical areas needed to succeed. If you are always making “either-or” decisions then you are always leaving opportunity on the table and greatly reducing your chances of coming out on
4- Solid storytelling. You need to be able to story tell and explain your USP’s to make people listen. Then your DTP’s (Describe The Product) need to be tight, concise and believable. So much of this comes down to your social media messaging, execution and ongoing dialogue with consumers. Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest, but most aren’t and/or others wont see it like you do. You need to be able to clearly convey your why (and your why they should care) if you want them to become customers and brand advocates. Your branding, packaging, website, label, POS, and story all lay the foundation. Then how and where you spread those messages around makes a big difference. Underinvesting in any or worse, all of those, will greatly compromise your chances of winning.
5- Grit. Finally, with all of the above in the right place, you need a leader, team, and brand with the grit and willingness to stick it out when times get tough or you suffer major losses or setbacks. They will come, so you need to have the mental fortitude to weather the storm, bounce back quickly and keep plowing forward. This game is not for the weak, trust me on that!
I encourage all players in this space to look inward and figure out if they are lacking in any of these core categories. The good news is that most can be course corrected and adjusted, but only if you stop, breathe, assess, and are honest with yourself. It does require reflection, forward thinking and serious commitment
Most of my clients have some of these attributes in place and a few have them all. An analogy I like to use is that I feel like a High School or College Basketball Coach sometimes. Working with all of my clients is important and meaningful to me, but collaborating with those really special ones that come around more rarely (like a true NBA star in the making) is incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun along the way!